It says in RADIOHEAD's bio that "Rock 'n' rool is the most important thing in the world to the members of Radiohead." From the sound of it, that's right on the mark.
Since it's release in Febuary 1995, Radiohead's spectacular second full-length THE BENDS - the follow-up to their hightly successful 1993 debut Lp PABLO HONEY, which featured the awesome hit "Creep," and 1994's MY IRON LUNG Ep - had been garnering intense critical acclaim from the press, their peers, but most importantly their ever growing fanbase. Still, despite the adulation, the band has yet to receive the same attention as such bands as Blur, Oasis and Smashing Pumpkins, even though in head-to-head competition (no pun intended) I believe that Radiohead would have no problem keeping their heads above the water.
So what's the problem? I couldn't tell you, because as far as I'm concerned their sopomore release was the best album of 1995 and Jonny Greenwood is presently the single most under-rated guitarist in the music industry. Thom E. Yorke (vocals, guitar), Ed O'Brien (guitar), Colin Greenwood (bass)-yes, he is Jonny's brother-and Phil Selway (drums) make up the rest of Radiohead. Slowly but surly it appears that the rest of the world is finally starting to catch on to this incredible British band.
So, how does the band feel about the album that everyone is raving about? "We're very happy with it," states Jonny. "When I started out writing stuff with Thom-back when we were 13 or 14 recording stuff at school-we used to listen endlessly to ourselves playing music. It was very egotistical. We never did that again until this album. The first one we didn't like enough to listen to it, but we still play The Bends occasionally."
While the songwriting techniques
vary from band to band, Jonny explained that with Radiohead it varies from
song to song. "Usually Thom will come up with some central idea-sometimes
a title will be the first thing he comes up with. Usually he and I will
make the song slightly longer or more complex or easy, and just chop and
change what he's half written, but every song's different. We normally
write when we're on the road surrounded by instruments. It's very conducive
to music I think, rather than getting a cottage on a mountain somewhere-that's
kind of a cliche."
Anyone who watches MuchMusic regularly will have seen several Radiohead videos for such tracks as "Fake Plastic Trees" and, more recently, the video single "Just" which had driven everyone crazy in trying to figure out what the man lying on the sidewalk says at teh end of the song when the subtitles stop. The band is questioned endlessly about it, and has never broke their silence-if you ask me, it seems almost sadistic. Jonny even has a bit of a giggle when I brought it up. "That's why we spent so much time researching what he would say, so yes, I suppose we did do it to get people's attention. To actually tell you the reason he's lying down would deaden the impact-and it'd make you lie down on the street as well."
Since they've broken big, everyone wants to know about them and hear what they have to say-or at least, so you'd expect. Contrary to the sudden serge of success the band had gotten, Jonny claims a similar degree of media attention hasn't accompanied it. "I might be wrong, but I believe that when you need to know (inside/personal) stuff it makes the music smaller somehow, I mean, I don't know anything about David Byrne or Talking Heads especially, but their music and lyrics are large enough for me not to need that. But at the same time when I think about it I suppose I'd like to know about them more. I'd like to know about Frank Black and the people I admire, so it's hard to say."
Radiohead-who were originally known as On A Friday, so named as that was the only day on which they originally could rehearse-didn't pursue its musical career in earnest until college pursuits were taken care of, except for Jonny, who gave up a poly course for his music pursuit. Considering that they are one of the few to have "made it," and are now "role models" of sorts, does Jonny feel it important for the band to convey the necessity of an education to their young fans. He relates a story that says it all: "While touring, they used to find Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground locked in toilet cubicals with books-he'd carry on his studies on the road. I've always admired that more than stories of people found in toilet cubicals jacking up or whatever. I think education is a really stupid thing to avoid."
Radiohead has had the opportunity
to tour with some big acts from both the U.K. and America, including Ned's
Atomic Dustbin and R.E.M., but Jonny openly admits that he prefers touring
with U.K. bands. "I think American bands tend to be able to play their
instruments a little better," he begins, "but, at the same time, they sometimes
have less spirit, which can be a disadvantage. You get people who are guitar
magazine reading type musicians... they are just sort of over-rehearsed,
and they're too scared to make mistakes and too scared to try to do things
different. Of course I'm generalizing a bit, but they seem to be much too
tight. So I think I prefer to play with British bands really. While it's
very traditional in America to be in a band, it's still quite a different
thing to do in England. Everybody's in a band in America it seems."